New Delhi: Amber Dubey, one of nine domain experts hired by the Modi government in 2019 as ‘lateral entrants’ to the bureaucracy, has quit.
Dubey, joint secretary in the civil aviation ministry, served his three-year contract but has chosen not to avail the optional two-year extension. He is the second ‘lateral entrant’ to have done so since 2020, when Arun Goel had resigned as joint secretary in the ministry of commerce.
Expressing unwillingness to take the extension, Dubey opted out of government last week upon completion of his tenure. An IIT-Bombay and IIM-Ahmedabad alumnus, Dubey was a senior partner at KPMG prior to his stint in government.
Of the nine domain experts hired by the government as lateral entrants in 2019, eight — five from the corporate sector and three from the public sector — had joined the civil services and were posted as joint secretaries across central government ministries.
Confirming his decision to step down as joint secretary, Dubey told ThePrint: “The three years in government have been quite challenging yet extremely fulfilling. It’s been an honour to serve here and the memories will be cherished for life. I will now be going back to the industry. I will be available for any help or suggestions whenever required by the ministry.”
According to sources in the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), the government, “happy” with the performance of the seven remaining lateral entrants hired in 2019, had decided to grant them extensions earlier this year.
However, some of the entrants ThePrint spoke to said they often felt like “outsiders”.
‘Outsiders’ in service
In 2021, the government had hired three more domain experts as lateral entrants — one from the public sector and two from the private sector.
Of the total of 12 domain experts hired by the government as lateral entrants in 2019 and 2021, nine are still serving. These include four from the public sector and five from the corporate sector.
“The bureaucracy is hostile towards the laterals and we were always treated as outsiders. We are not part of the IAS WhatsApp groups, and many of us are not even invited to their social gatherings or parties. There is a lot of resistance among the senior officers,” one lateral entrant said on condition of anonymity.
Another lateral entrant serving as joint secretary said that the resistance was evident right from the beginning. “At the institute (Indian Institute of Public Administration) we were sent to for training before joining the government, we were told, ‘Aukaat me rehna (know your place)’. Laterals like us come from very strong backgrounds, there are people from IIT, IIMs, LSE and so on. We have held senior and crucial positions in the industry.”
He further said that domain experts like him chose to work for the government because they wanted to contribute to “nation-building”, adding: “We never knew that we would have to face such a hostile lobby.”
Dip in number of applicants
In 2021, the government received over 2,000 applications for around 40 positions including that of joint secretary, director and deputy secretary.
According to a press statement by the DoPT, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) received 295 applications for the post of joint secretary, 1,247 for director and 489 for deputy secretary in 2021.
This was in contrast to 2019, when the government received 6,077 applications for just 10 joint secretary posts.
“The bureaucratic structure is one of the many reasons that the craze is fading. The laterals leave their high-salaried jobs in the private sector and join the government and the service to contribute and for the prestige the service carries. But, the positions and the contract they get seem to be underwhelming,” said another lateral entrant.
He added that those from the 2019 batch who have opted for the extension will continue in the civil services for another two years “for the experience”.
“This lateral entry scheme is very progressive, but the government needs to regulate the bureaucratic high-handedness here. The contract, too, is draconian,” he further said.
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)